By Indrani Chanda:
A child is the most innocent creation on this earth and marriage is a beautiful correlation between two souls. But whenever these two terms blend together, they strike the most horrible consequences on human lives.
India or rather Modern India has still not been removed from the list of this social evil. In fact, more than 40% of the children suffered from this injustice as informed by UNICEF. 47% of the children are forced to marry by the age of 18, and 18% are forced by the age of 15. The very root of this is extracted from the medieval ages when the Sultans of Delhi started this convention in order to produce alliances for country’s good. The causes may be summed up as lack of education, poverty, caste problems etc. When it is their time to play, to have education, to be reared in their mother’s womb, they are thrown into obscurity, oppression, and end up with a tortured fate.
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are the states where child marriages are seen in large numbers. Because of the low economic opportunities, people used this custom to secure their children’s future. Comparatively girl child are more involved in these cases rather than boys. Their families are restricted by their so-called prejudices that a girl’s marriage is more important than her education. Parents also have the notion that early marriage can secure their girl’s virginity.
The laws such as The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) are enacted upon the country to reduce the child marriages. According to these laws, a girl becomes eligible for marriage mentally and physically only at the age of 18, when a boy is at the age of 21, and marriages that occur before these prescribed ages are declared by the court as illegal. There are punishments for both the families. They must be jailed and must give a large amount of fine. The police or local leaders, priests are also to be jailed if they are found to be indulged in this act. But still the laws fail to stop it.
Although now-a-days the situation has become a little better, but there is still no full-stop to this process. In fact, the situation becomes worse when a 14 or 15-years-old girl is going to reproduce a baby. It is pathetic to imagine a girl child herself going through the pain of pregnancy. Most of them die during their pregnancy or at the time of giving birth. Roza Olyai, an Indian gynecologist and the National Chairperson for the Adolescent Health Committee of the Federation of the Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India says, “Early marriage has many medical risks. The reproductive organs are not fully developed. The body is not ready. Teenage mothers, especially those below 18 years, risk hypertensive disorder, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, and post-partum hemorrhage.” Although India has attained modernity in terms of scientific innovations, education, and technology but these are not enough to stop the child marriages. People still use this convention.
When in the Vedic period women enjoyed their social liberty, in the 21st century the position of women have become degenerated. They have become puppets in the hands of the society, subjected to oppression and exploitation. Child marriages are largely seen in the rural areas where most of the population of India lives. To reduce this, one of the major instruments is to spread education throughout the country, in each and every corner and also to make people aware of the terrible consequences of these marriages.
Poverty, one of the major reasons of child marriages can be reduced through the use of long term policies generated by the Government. While all these issues are necessary, public consciousness is also mandatory. Only when people will become aware of this injustice, and will rise against this convention, many of the country’s children will live a fearless and secure life and can attain their goals.